Ecstatic about the week ahead, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity surpassed all of my expectations. The atmosphere was unmatched, scholars, faculty and staff from institutions across the globe joined in the spirit of diversity and inclusion. Throughout the week, I attended seminars that addressed issues that face many African and Hispanic American students in higher education. This inspired my interest in the Critical Race Theory (CRT), discussed by noted scholar, Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, who defined the theory as a set of propositions that centers race and racism that explain the lived experiences of people of color. He assessed several key tenets of CRT including:
• Permanency of Racism
• Challenges Dominant Ideology
o Race neutrality
o Color blindness
o Increment change
• Centrality of experimental knowledge
• Challenges ahistoricism: transdisciplinary
• Commitment to Social Justice
This topic echoed in many more seminars that I have included below:
• Black Greek Letter Fraternity/Sorority Growth for the 21st Century
Presented by Rasheed Ali Cromwell and Syreeta Green who discussed recruitment strategies for BGLOs at predominantly white institutions
• Hip Hop Forum 2014- Hip Hop Evolution: From Urban Shadows to the Global Mainstream and Academy
Renowned hip hop artists, Afrika Bambaataa and Yo Yo, present the acceptance of the hip hop culture and its importance in higher education. Cornell University has taken the leap to create a “hip hop” curriculum as well as shed light on this mainstream, global phenomenon, why can’t we?
• Institutional Collaboration in Support of Black Male Students
Three scholars apply the implications of CRT as it relates to black male students attending PWIs, and support groups to motivate these students
• The Black Hair Politick: The Role of Hair in the Lives of Black Collegiate Women at Predominantly White Universities
This session investigated the social function of hair in four arenas: biological fact, symbolism, abjectivity, and cultural practice in respect to the lives of six Black collegiate women at a PWI.
• ID_BR- Discussing Ethnic Identity in Brazil
The last bulleted point was very special for me, because in this experience I was asked to join the study with faculty from PUC-RIO Brazil, to further discuss racial identity and self perception amongst people belonging to the African diaspora, who have difficulty stimulating dialogue about one’s experiences based on physical characteristics. I will further explore this study amongst people in the Caribbean, who face the same struggle based on their phenotypic appearance. This experience has awarded me an invite to help in presenting at next year’s NCORE.
Every seminar I attended, I received contact information from all of the speakers. Speakers that I would love to invite to the university are Dr. Terrell Strayhorn and Marc Lamont Hill. These scholars not only have an awesome reputation, but I strongly believe that their message needs to be heard by my fellow Notre Dame students. I can truly say, this was an experience of a lifetime, and one in which I will never forget. I am a proud “NCORE-ian”.
I consider NCORE as one of the most fruitful platforms to debate the intrinsic relationships between academia and activism. According to my experience in its latest event, one of the main concerns of the conference is to find consistent channels to compellingly address theory (cultural, racial, and political) in local or particular contexts.
As a Ph.D. Literature student, attending the conference was very important to me because it allowed to explore possible channels to connect cultural theory produced in Latin American contexts (such the Hispanic Cuban case, but also francophone Caribbean cases such as the Martinique one) and critically analyze them through the cultural and racial theories produced in Anglo-American academia (namely U.S. universities). NCORE gave me the opportunity to establish a fluent dialog with American scholars who were very interested in including these Caribbean experiences in their critical race analysis. At the same time, there were scholars who clearly enriched my background with theoretical movements such as the CRT (Critical Race Theory), for instance, an approach possibly to be introduced in my current research.
As an example of that—in the realm of cultural studies—I was happily surprised to find a compelling discussion around Hip Hop culture at NCORE. The panels analyzed the racial critical possibilities embedded in the genre and the necessity to adjust a more dynamic theoretical apparatus to approach the movement and its multiple manifestations in the North American context as well as internationally. In this sense, one of my concerns and contributions to the panels was related to the problem of ethnicity and history in the movement. Concretely speaking, I realized that most of the historical perspectives claim that the movement is simply an Afro-American phenomenon and that from this particular ethnicity sprang everything. My argument is that this initial ethnical assumption must be challenged and re-historicized since the Bronx (New York) was a multicultural locus where both African-Americans and Hispanics shared the political and cultural scenario—as well as their marginal position in regards to the hegemonic culture—and therefore its outputs cannot be reduced to a single ethnical experience but to multiple experiences. So if we want to properly historicize the Hip Hop cultural phenomena we have to address questions such as: why should we just emphasize the Afro-American contribution in the genre’s origin? Or how could we include other marginal voices that played an active role in these origins and that have been determinant in the ongoing process, for instance cases such as the Latin American or the European one? In this regard, I actually had the chance to ask Afrika Bambaataa (the pioneer of the movement) himself about his opinion in this respect.
For all the reasons explained above, I found that my attendance to NCORE 2014 was notably vital to my ongoing formation at Notre Dame and I encourage other graduate students to attend the event. NCORE allowed me to identify new form of criticism and also made me reflect in the specific need of practical bridges between academia (theory), service and activism. NCORE is an ideal platform to explore critical analysis, artistic performances, and to consolidate a solid scholar network in regards to Race and Ethnicity topics as well as in the realm of Cultural studies.
I mainly propose three collectives to come to Notre Dame University: (1) Las Cafeteras; (2) Olmeca; and (3) Black History 101 Mobile Museum.
Las Cafeteras proposes an interesting workshop where they problematize the notion of History. They analyze and promote the construction of local stories that could challenge the global History (they deal with the concept of “His-story”). They pay particular attention to the necessity of a personal narrative that could challenge the misrepresentation of the subject, or even marginal communities, in the mass media. They basically introduce their personal experience in East Los Angeles to deal with issues of mass media stereotype upon Mexican-American and Latinos in general. The workshop includes an interesting work with mass media itself and with their own music products (they have already released two albums).
The musical approach of this young rapper emphasizes the multicultural composition of Mexican-Americans and explores the bilingualism as a multi-positional urban expression. Including symbolic referents from the indigenous communities in Mexico, Olmeca wisely fuses street languages with mythic imaginaries which ultimately produces a kaleidoscopic rap that compellingly deals with the problem of the political representation of Latinos in the United States.
Black History 101 Mobile Museum
As suggested in the title, this project is a private collection of artifacts that expose, in one way or another, different chapters of African American history. Khalid el-Hakim, its founder, has collected these pieces all around the country and his main target is to present them for educational purposes. According to him “The museum has over 5,000 rare treasures among its collection including original documents from historic Black figures whose contributions helped shape the United States. Artifacts in this unparalleled mobile collection represent items from the categories of slavery, Jim Crow era, music, sports, the Civil Rights and Black Power era, and popular culture.” I found this exhibition and the type of workshops that he proposes very compelling and insightful since every single artifact addresses different historical problems (see, for instance, the pear’s soap picture)